Crackdowns Had Curbed Violence

Article excerpt

Metal detectors and surveillance cameras went up in the hallways. Idle threats went past the principal's office to the police station. Students were encouraged to inform school authorities about friends who might pose a threat to their classmates. Special events such as proms and graduations were postponed.

In the year since a spate of school shootings, many principals and superintendents -- worried their students would copycat nationally reported incidents -- have cracked down on security. Congress and states have backed their efforts with money.

The nationwide efforts led to a relatively placid academic year.

Before yesterday's tragedy in Colorado, the National School Safety Center had identified nine school-related violent deaths (including three suicides) during the 1998-99 school year.

There were 42 violent school deaths during the 1997-98 school year and 25 violent deaths the year before, said June Arnette, associate director of the Westlake, Calif., group that monitors school violence and trains schools in violence prevention.

Bill Modzeleski, director of the Education Department's safe and drug-free schools program, said the safety center's figures are not comprehensive and that the real total of violent school deaths this school year may be higher. But he did confirm that school violence had been declining.

Schools nationwide took steps such as installing metal detectors and surveillance cameras, tracking idle threats and profiling students with a potential for violence. At the slightest sign of trouble, principals and superintendents have responded:

A high school student in Starkville, Miss., was arrested in February and faces criminal charges for having a gun on school property.

An eighth-grader in Clarion County, Pa., who had a gun and repeated a threat to kill teachers was arrested at Union High School after a fellow student told his mother of threats. …